Being Elvis by Ray Connolly
A Lonely Life

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The author illuminates, as well, the many forgettable Presley films, his final years in Las Vegas, and the brutal touring schedule that ground him down. Connolly carefully and sympathetically paints the many faces of Presley, faces eventually shrouded in despair.
-Kirkus

Synopsis

A “sympathetic and exceptionally well-written account” (USA Today), Ray Connolly’s biography of the King soars with “spontaneity and electricity” (Preston Lauterbach).


Elvis Presley is a giant figure in American popular culture, a man whose talent and fame were matched only by his later excesses and tragic end. A godlike entity in the history of rock and roll, this twentieth-century icon with a dazzling voice blended gospel and traditionally black rhythm and blues with country to create a completely new kind of music and new way of expressing male sexuality, which simply blew the doors off a staid and repressed 1950s America.


In Being Elvis veteran rock journalist Ray Connolly takes a fresh look at the career of the world’s most loved singer, placing him, forty years after his death, not exhaustively in the garish neon lights of Las Vegas but back in his mid-twentieth-century, distinctly southern world. For new and seasoned fans alike, Connolly, who interviewed Elvis in 1969, re-creates a man who sprang from poverty in Tupelo, Mississippi, to unprecedented overnight fame, eclipsing Frank Sinatra and then inspiring the Beatles along the way.


Juxtaposing the music, the songs, and the incendiary live concerts with a personal life that would later careen wildly out of control, Connolly demonstrates that Elvis’s amphetamine use began as early as his touring days of hysteria in the late 1950s, and that the financial needs that drove him in the beginning would return to plague him at the very end. With a narrative informed by interviews over many years with John Lennon, Bob Dylan, B. B. King, Sam Phillips, and Roy Orbison, among many others, Connolly creates one of the most nuanced and mature portraits of this cultural phenomenon to date.


What distinguishes Being Elvis beyond the narrative itself is Connolly’s more subtle examinations of white poverty, class aspirations, and the prison that is extreme fame. As we reach the end of this poignant account, Elvis’s death at forty-two takes on the hue of a profoundly American tragedy. The creator of an American sound that resonates today, Elvis remains frozen in time, an enduring American icon who could “seamlessly soar into a falsetto of pleading and yearning” and capture an inner emotion, perhaps of eternal yearning, to which all of us can still relate.


Intimate and unsparing, Being Elvis explores the extravagance and irrationality inherent in the Elvis mythology, ultimately offering a thoughtful celebration of an immortal life.

 

About Ray Connolly

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Born in 1941, Connolly was brought up in Lancashire and attended the London School of Economics, where he read social anthropology, and where Mick Jagger was a fellow student. He then interviewed sixties pop stars for the London Evening Standard. He has written numerous newspaper articles for the Daily Mail, The Sunday Times, The Times, The Daily Telegraph and The Observer. Connolly has written several novels, including Sunday Morning and Shadows on a Wall, the movies That'll Be the Day and Stardust, the television series Lytton's Diary and Perfect Scoundrels and a biography of John Lennon. He also worked with record producer Sir George Martin on the television series The Rhythm of Life, and has written TV plays, films and documentaries, radio plays, short stories and much journalism.
 
Published March 21, 2017 by Liveright. 379 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Humor & Entertainment. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Being Elvis
All: 3 | Positive: 1 | Negative: 2

Kirkus

Good
on Sep 22 2016

The author illuminates, as well, the many forgettable Presley films, his final years in Las Vegas, and the brutal touring schedule that ground him down. Connolly carefully and sympathetically paints the many faces of Presley, faces eventually shrouded in despair.

Read Full Review of Being Elvis: A Lonely Life | See more reviews from Kirkus

Publishers Weekly

Below average
on Jun 22 2017

This speculative leap provides both the strength and weakness of the account: while readers will pity the overwhelmed singer, the world seen through his eyes is quite blurry...

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WSJ online

Above average
Reviewed by David Kirby on Apr 07 2017

What Mr. Connolly does is add shadow, to the degree that the living Elvis seems dead already, trapped in a spooky hell like some unquiet spirit in Dante’s underworld or a grainy Hollywood horror film.

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